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Claremont Courier
Jan 30, 2002

by Gary Scott

Initiative Goes to Court

A Superior Court judge heard arguments last week on the merits of a lawsuit brought by the city of Santa Monica against its city clerk. At issue is the same conflict-of-interest initiative that was passed by Claremont voters last year under the ballot title Measure A.

Fred Woocher, attorney for the Oaks Project, told Superior Court Judge Debra Yang that the lawsuit should be thrown out of court based on the fact that no real controversy exists between Santa Monica's city council and City Clerk Maria Stewart.

The Oaks authored the initiative.

The measure was passed by voters in 4 communities: Claremont, Pasadena, Santa Monica and San Francisco. In all but the last, city officials opined the initiative was unconstitutional and overly vague. In order to nullify the measure, these cities endeavored to bring the matter to a court for a final ruling.

However, the Oaks Project sidestepped most of the challenges. Finally, Santa Monica devised a way to bring the matter up for judicial review: by having Ms. Stewart refuse to implement the measure, the city could sue her, ostensibly to force implementation--even though the city council there has publicly stated its opposition to the measure.

The Oaks Project intervened on behalf of Santa Monica, but rather than defend the measure itself, Oaks officials have maintained the lawsuit should be thrown out.

"It is impossible to have a true controversy in a case where both parties have taken the same position, and no one has truly been harmed," states Oaks spokeswoman Carmen Balber.

Santa Monica's attorney countered by telling Judge Yang that the court needs to rule whether or not the initiative can be enforced since city officials are in the position of enforcing what they say is an unconstitutional law.

Both Claremont and Pasadena had tried to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Stewart, to argue the measure's unconstitutionality, but a judge ruled they had no legal standing. As a result, even if there is a ruling on the constitutionality of the Santa Monica measure it will not immediately affect the legality of Claremont's Measure A.

The hearing was held Friday, January 25. Judge Yang is expected to decide on the merits of the lawsuit sometime before March.

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